The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has launched openFDA, a new initiative designed to make it easier for web developers, researchers, and the public to access public health datasets collected by the agency.

Complying with a presidential executive order to make government data more accessible, openFDA will offer data in a structured, computer readable format to quickly search, query, or pull massive amounts of public information from FDA datasets on an as-needed basis.

OpenFDA uses a search-based application programming interface (API) to collect large amounts of existing publicly available data, offering developers the ability to search through text within that data, ranking results much like a search using Google would do. This method then allows them to build their own applications on top of openFDA, giving them a large amount of flexibility to determine what types of data they would like to search and how they would like to present that data to end-users. This enables a wide variety of applications to be built on one common platform, according to the agency.

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